The “Relay” Series of Exhibitions: the Long March of Art is not only an epic picture scroll on the theme of the spirit of the Long March by the Central Academy of Fine Arts (abbr. CAFA), it is also the collective presentation of artistic tolerance, academic spirit and cultural ideals of successive generations of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. In order to fully integrate the creative power of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, collectively displaying the latest creative achievements, simultaneously focusing on the current multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary interactions, promoted by Party Secretary of CAFA Gao Hong and President of CAFA Fan Di’an, we established and implemented a new organizational mechanism for art to be able to reflect the new image of the times on the major thematic creation by collective efforts and collective research. In the new situation, the Central Academy of Fine Arts sets up the creative and research project of “Relay” series of exhibitions to promote the innovation of creative mechanisms, on the one hand, it offers an optimized program for the organization for the “Long March of Art” exhibition, and more importantly it provides a practical and useful method for the establishment of the artistic creative status and the exploration of the road of the universities and colleges of art in today’s multiple and diverse artistic environment.

On the whole, academic objectives of the creative mechanism of the “Relay” series of exhibitions can be broadly summarized on the following two levels: Firstly, taking “Relay” as the brand to create the collective creative ecology of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Secondly, it creates an academic path to interact with contemporary China and the contemporary world where it achieved the heritage and relay of an excellent tradition from ideological and academic levels. The former takes the exploration of the contemporary significance of academy art as the subject, trying to provide a good teaching environment and cultural atmosphere for the development of artistic innovation, while with the art education work it is able to achieve individual guidance and benefit; the latter takes the young artists of the academy as the object of observation, the use of academy resources to establish the channel for communication between the artistic individuals and art world from a global cultural perspective. It is not difficult to discover that both the structural integration inside the academy and the outward multi-orientated exploration need the creative mechanism to realize the multi-level association, promotion and coordination function. This article will respectively explore the self-innovation of the “Relay” series of exhibitions on the level of creative organizational mechanism from the three perspectives including the creative tradition, innovative environment and organizational mode.


Path of Academy: Artistic Innovation with an Historical Dimension

In 1918, the establishment of the National Beiping Art School created a new era of modern art education. Over the past century, several generations of artists and art educators had taken up the torch, and become a very active force in the process of Chinese fine arts, and left a heavy impression on the writing of Chinese art history in the 20th century. Along with the complicated appearance in the evolution of Chinese artistic modernization, the development of art education also showed some collective exploration and a change of direction, which reflected the adaptability and openness towards self-innovation of the Central Academy of Fine Arts when it experienced the changes of the era, at the same time, it has also established the tradition of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, with a spirit of realism so as to actively participate in and reflect social change. Artistic creation and academic research have always displayed a strong sense of social responsibility and mission.

In the 1950s, under the influence of the French Academy, the teaching system of the Soviet Union, the Chinese academy education of art completely entered the period that had a tendency towards the creation of an institute. During this period, the older generation of art educators of the Central Academy of Fine Arts began to consciously explore the teaching system that fitted the spirit of the times, being consistent with the characteristics of the subject. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Department of Chinese Painting established a set of “three-in-one” teaching methods of sketching, copying and creating, taking copying as a supplement and creation as the goal. The Department of Oil painting held the Maximov (Максимов) training classes and organized teachers and students to go deep into life, going to the countryside to sketch, for new teaching and creation, as well as reforming. With these teaching methods, it gradually formed a teaching and creating method which did not only have a considerable degree of universality at that time but also served as the academic tradition of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and had a everlasting influence on the teaching and creation of the teachers of the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

It has undergone a remarkable process since the reform and opening-up was undertaken, especially the rapid expansion of the new century, today’s Central Academy of Fine Arts has formed a compatible pattern of “big art” with complete disciplines. It is linked with the creative tradition closely contacting the development of the times and the social transformation of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and it is the achievement of several generations of faculty members from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, enduring great hardship in pioneering work, honing and moving ahead on the difficult artistic journey. However, under the trend of rapid economic development and global integration we face a prominent problem, namely how to find the cultural standpoint and developmental road for Chinese contemporary art in a variety of diverse world art patterns?” If people considered the global artistic and cultural exchanges as an urgent demand in the 1980s and 1990s. China has currently become the second largest economic country in the world and plays an important role in the global pattern now, how we can explore an unique role in the multi-cultural pattern and thus promote a global cultural development, has become a new cultural proposition that we need to face at present. From the dimension of history, we review the exploration of the road that the art of the academy has taken as a microcosm for the development of Chinese art since the new cultural movement, showcasing the rich and diverse art forms, and the surging disadvantaged ideology. Based on the rich traditional culture, the relatively independent creative identity and a certain degree of academic standards, the exploration of the path of the art of the academy and the contemporary innovation that should be placed in the complex landscape of contemporary Chinese society while considering it as an important force which can’t be ignored for contemporary Chinese art in response to a series of new cultural propositions.

Multiform Interaction: A Formal Exploration in a Contemporary Context

Compared with history, it is obvious that today’s Central Academy of Fine Arts has had a lot of changes in the establishment of faculties and disciplinary setting, it has developed to a comprehensive self-sufficient art school with the concept of “Big Art”, with an integrated system, which contains rich characteristics of the times and international trends, while it is also a necessary preparation to promote the establishment of the “double first-class”, to finish the creation of a world-class university and first-class disciplines. Obviously, a series of disciplinary construction work for the Central Academy of Fine Arts in the new century does not aim at establishing a “big” and “all” disciplinary system of the academy, while the purpose of running a school is to give the teachers and students from Central Academy of Fine Arts a great vision, open concept and innovative power. Seen from this point of view, to build a comprehensive developing disciplinary system is the first step to promote the innovation of academy art, to build the first-class pattern of art education, while the interdisciplinary forms interact and promote, allowing different specialties to bring influence and promotion to each other, and thus to form the “Art Ecology” of the academy as stressed by President of CAFA Fan Di’an, which is a more daunting challenge.

In recent years, major universities and colleges of art across the country including the Central Academy of Fine Arts, have emerged from a compelling trend of integration. Seen from the perspective of culture, this trend reflects that academia has a reflection on the division of the disciplinary system constituted by the scientific view of knowledge in the 20th century. Seen from the perspective of college education, the inter-disciplinary interaction, crossing boundaries and integration of knowledge, which are important features and links to the evolution of subject knowledge, accumulating energy for the disciplines to have further development. Seen from the perspective of individual creation, the multi-disciplinary and multi-formal interaction is helpful for the individual to jump out of the existing pattern of professional structure, and to examine the ways and means of artistic creation and the diversity of formal languages from various perspectives.

In this “ ‘Relay’ Series of Exhibitions: Long March of Art” is the integration and display of the creative power of various faculties of the Central Academy of Fine Arts finished by a multi-disciplinary, multi-specialty approach in this post-disciplinary trend. When the Central Academy of Fine Arts continues to promote the construction of the existing advantaged disciplines, it gives adequate attention to the developmental potential of new disciplines that adapt to the needs of the times, and through the construction of a platform to achieve the innovation of organizational mechanism, which has weakened the traditional dualistic thinking of “center-periphery” between disciplines, which allows the rich traditions of the fine arts and humanities to complement and interact with the great prospect of the design and architectural disciplines, and also brings more artistic problems into our academic field.

Combined with the creative course of the exhibition, we can see there are at least three roles to break the academic barriers and achieve interdisciplinary communication: firstly, in the process of interdisciplinary thinking, feelings, understanding, experiences and the expression of the spirit of the Long March of the present people is a primary problem for the teachers and students to think of in the process of creation. The choice of the formal language is an autonomous choice based on the response to these primary problems. Secondly, in the era of longing for the “peak” of artistic creation, we should not only be able to stand on the shoulders of art predecessors bravely climbing the ideals of art, but also boldly explore, forging ahead with determination, breaking the established paradigm to pioneer the unknown creative field, and then revealing the new spiritual appearance of the contemporary people. Thirdly, the universities and colleges of art should become a closer academic community, so that artistic creation is viewed and discussed in a wider space. Tempering forward for the same artistic ideal is not only the best way to achieve the developmental goals of the universities and colleges of art, it is also the key to coping with the tide of globalization.

Working Together: Organizational Change in the Information Age

In the final part of the presentation, the exhibition particularly highlights the emphasis on the creative process and the preparation of the exhibition. For example, in the series of publications it does not only collectively present the participating works in the “Long March of Art”, but also displays the creative process of the teams from various faculties in the “Scene of the History”, particularly around the creative organizational mechanism to compile the “New Patch of the Academy”, to record and analyze the generation process of the exhibition from different perspectives. This initiative does not only research the documents of the creative exhibition of the Central Academy of Fine Arts it also determines an academic positioning, starting from the creation and practice itself it also shows the one-year preparatory process that has an extreme important influence, playing the role of reference and inspiration, on the final creative work. Therefore, the diachronic narrative text of the creative process is not only a supplementary reading to the exhibition, but also should be regarded as an important part of the creative achievement.

This model can be summed up as a three-dimensional interactive relationship between the curatorial team, the organizational platform and the creative team in the entire creative event. Among them, the organizational platform is through the construction of a variety of communicating methods able to achieve the real-time communication between the curatorial team and creative team. On the one hand, the curatorial team can keep abreast of the creating progress of various departments and disciplines, evaluating the results of each stage, and then depending on the specified creative situation, finish the overall grasping and detailed perception of the exhibition. On the other hand, the creative team can accurately capture the whole idea of the exhibition with the help of the platform, being aware of the core idea and questions the consciousness of the curatorial team, and then make some adjustments of the present creative practice.

At the same time, the interaction between the secondary schools and departments can also influence the final effect of creative activities to a certain extent. It is not difficult to find that through the multi-dynamic interactions, the idea of this exhibition deeply penetrates into the creative process of each piece of work, thus reflecting the close relationship between the entire idea and the specific work. In addition, in the process of the organization promoting the exhibition, the Department of Scientific Research also created the official account of “CAFA Relay”, to achieve the nutritional supplement to the creative materials, art classics and the related creations and research, to form a platform effect for working and pulling together, sharing knowledge and collaboratively innovating.

Fan Di’an stressed that, “In today’s information age, all of our academic research can’t be separated from the development of the academic structure, so that, the more effective way is to make a pattern of our own knowledge and the whole academic pattern is then formed as an “isomorphism”. Extending his view to the context of contemporary art creations, we can find that it offers a clear and effective solution to the artistic innovation in the torrent of information. In this exhibition, the creative mechanism platform plays the role of “isomorphism” of methods and ideas from the horizontal (between the various disciplines of the academy) and vertical (between the project curatorial team and creative individuals) dimensions, and then to better integrate the individual formal language style with the social function of art, to promote the Central Academy of Fine Arts to play a greater social utility through the integration of collective creative forces.

The “Relay” series of exhibitions: Long March of Art creative event embodies the organizational innovation, which does not only have a specific and clear understanding of the purpose and direction, but also a corresponding effective exploration on the organizational strategy and implementation method. Although there are still uninvolved or unsolved problems in the exploring process of the creative mechanism, but following the first “Relay” series of the exhibition in 2016 that started the change of the organizational mechanism of artistic creation, the “Relay Series of Exhibition: Long March of Art” blooms again this year, and it has created an academic road with an innovative creating mechanism. The “Relay” series of exhibition reveals the meaning that all the great achievements are the results of continuous struggle, the promotion of contemporary art, the response to the cultural proposition of the era, the exploration of the path of the academy and the construction of the mechanism are all in need of comrades from the universities and colleges of art across the nation working together, relaying to explore.

Text by Song Xiaoxia, Director of the Department of Scientific Research, the Central Academy of Fine Arts

Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

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